The nice thing about watching reality TV is that, generally speaking, things sort themselves out after awhile.
Take for instance, Angela on Project Runway. Here is, essentially, a Dave Matthews loving hippy girl who lives in the backwoods who is still in this contest to find a high fashion designer. With horrible taste in clothes and a relatively annoying personality, it was long overdue that she got the boot.
And on Wednesday, she did.
Or you have Ryan “Darkhorse” Star on Rock Star: Supernova. It was fairly clear that he would never get the gig, even though his original song was better than the Supernova songs we’ve heard thus far, and probably a good fit for them. He just sang awkwardly, very likely not a good personality fit for those tools in the band…it wasn’t going to happen.
So on Wednesday, he got the boot.
(Of course, applying this logic to the best reality show on right now, this would mean that Chicken George would be getting sent home tonight. That won't happen, as crazy nappy haired Danielle will be getting hers. It's just funny listening to a woman trash talk about her game on this show of all places, and then essentially have accomplished nothing the entire summer. Way to go, Dani!)
You’d like to think that this circle of life would apply to sports as well. Take the Golden State Warriors. When I heard that they’d fired Mike Montgomery, I thought…well, that’s about right. He never seemed like the right fit, nor did he really seem like he liked that job too much. I don’t know, because I don’t watch nearly enough hoops, but that was my take.
Of course, this being the Warriors, my next question was: How are they going to screw this up?
Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you Don Nelson.
I mean (to quote Rob Corrdry) COME ON! Does anyone remember the last time the Warriors had a promising young squad with legitimate playoff aspirations? I do, and it was in 1994 and it got screwed up by (wait for it) Don Nelson. You force Nellie to work his shit out with Chris Webber and the team at least stays competitive for awhile longer. (I’m no Webber fan either, but please.)
Plus, and my math may be off here, I think Nellie is about to turn 675 years old. I really want to be a NBA fan again, and not just go through the routine. It just gets so hard to do that when you root for the Warriors. This may work out, and the team may make the playoffs, but I won’t eat these words – if you fire a coach, there’s never a good reason to bring in a retread. An exception like Art Shell in the NFL makes some sense, but even then, one thinks that if any other owner was there, they’d prefer a strong young upstart.
The nice thing about watching reality TV is that, generally speaking, things sort themselves out after awhile.
Today, August 29 is of course the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I still have trouble getting my head around that event, and I doubt I'll soon forget watching the aftermath of it on CNN, etc. And in some ways, coming shortly after the tsunami in South East Asia, and less than four years after 9/11, the compound of all those events made it especially awful.
Nothing will ever make me forget seeing pictures like this. Or watching helicopters fly over, dropping food to thankful people huddled on a roof, wondering why they weren't being airlifted out by the best military in the world.
Or even less morbid but just as shocking photos like these.
I'll never forget seeing Canal Street underwater, an entire city -- or, at the least, major parts of it -- washed away. Forever changed.
I'll remember watching the ugliest side of people in horribly desperate situations come out - the looters, to be sure, but just as ugly were the overblown commentaries about the criminal actions going on.
I will remember seeing TV hosts berate people with nothing for takingn some water and supplies from a store, lumping them in with the idiots who did go on a true looting spree. I will remember how the NRA used this to justify lax gun laws, and how Dennis Hastert suggested New Orleans didn't need to be rebuilt.
I'll never forget how this hurricane peeled away the thin veneer of the ugly side of New Orleans: poverty, racism and political incompetence.
It's not worth rehashing all the many incompetent choices the Bush administration either made or didn't make during and after Katrina. But I'll never forget those images, the anniversary of which was honored today, on August 29.
But tomorrow? Tomorrow, I will be honoring this memory. The one of what our President did on August 30, while a city lay dying. THIS should forever be one of the lasting images of Hurricane Katrina. And this is why people like me hate George Bush.
There’s something about certain books – you see others looking at the cover while you read it on the bus and smiling knowingly at you. You mention the title to someone who has read it, and they get a jealous grin on their face. For me, those books are among my favorites -- A Prayer for Owen Meany, Kafka on the Shore, Angle of Repose, anything by Paul Auster or Nick Hornby.
Shadow of the Wind is not one of my favorite books, but it’s incredibly enjoyable. Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the story is told by Daniel, a young man in Barcelona around the end of World War II. His father is a bookseller and takes Daniel to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he finds – almost as if drawn to it – a copy of a book called (in oh so meta fashion) Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.
Daniel loves the book and can’t figure out why he’s never heard of Carax. As he goes about trying to learn more about him, he becomes ensnared in a mystery that has lasted for decades. This is not a DaVinci Code type thing, it’s a small mystery, one that speaks to pettiness and brutality, as well as the power of love and heartbreak.
Though translated, the writing is acute and funny, and very engaging. It’s also scary at times (there are some very twisted characters) and surprising. More to the point, the story and perspective are told from and by people who love books. It’s an overriding theme of the book, described several places including here:
Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day. Every month we receive offers to turn our bookshop into a store selling televisions, girdles, or rope-soled shoes. They won’t get us out of here unless it’s feetfirst.
Those are pretty good qualities. So why didn’t I outright love the book? Well, mainly because a lot of the novel’s mysteries are revealed in a letter the main character gets at the tail end of the book. This seems to me the novel equivalent of a character in a film breaking down the unnecessarily complex plot to ensure a viewer understood it. It is the action of a weak screenwriter, and therefore it has to reflect poorly on the novelist. I cut some slack here because the mystery at that point wasn’t overtly complex, but the letter itself tells a very long story. I’d have rather seen it told in some way that felt as if the action was occurring then, rather than anecdotally.
But all of that is why I wouldn’t give this story a 9.0 or higher on my scale. It’s certainly worth reading, and it’s a quite enjoyable book.
I'm a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan (like most reasonable people) but I wouldn't argue that it's the greatest overall comic strip of all time because I don't know how you choose something like that. Certainly, longevity and impact on the culture would have to give nods to Peanuts and Doonesbury, at the least. But this particular strip is my all-time favorite, and I stumbled upon it this morning purely by accident. I remember being in college when it came out and joking that this would be half of the fun of having kids, so you could essentially fuck with their heads.
Shouldn't there be a law, or a test, or something so that clinically insane bigots can't run for office?
If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don't know better, we are leading them astray and it's wrong.
I mean, that's just wrong. Evil, wrong and NOT what we want in a leader. Sadly, this will probably help her pick up a few votes in Florida, but good gravy.
When it comes to a talent show – which is essentially what Rockstar: Supernova is – I generally am not that interested. But this show is oddly compelling because the singers aren’t awful. They’re not great, and the songs they are asked to sing are almost always banal and trite. I love Nirvana, and I honestly do think that they will be remembered as one of the most influential bands in the late part of the 20th century, but I feel like I could have skipped half these shows and just played Nevermind a few spins and I’d be okay.
What is interesting is that there are a few singers I could actually see joining this group, not that I’d listen to any of them. Last night, Ryan “Darkhorse” Star sung an original tune I genuinely enjoyed, and it sounded at least as good (actually, much better than) as Supernova’s original stuff. He, Dilana, Magni and even Toby seem to me like viable candidates for this gig. And Storm is hot enough with a good enough voice I could see her hanging around awhile as well.
Dilana was the clear front runner, but her version of The Police “Every Breath You Take” was not only boring, but two things were insane. The most obvious one were those crazy pink eyelashes. IN. SANE. Look, we all know you are cuckoo for cocoa puffs, D, but that’s actually disturbing. But the second, much more offensive transgression, was during the chorus, instead of singing “I’ll be watching you…” – she sang, “Di-Laaaaanaaa” Yes, that’s right, she sang her name over one of the classic rock anthems of the last twenty years or so.
So, just in case there was any questions, Dilana? You’re dead to me.
Onto the granddaddy of reality TV, Survivor. It’s now become public that the next season, based in the Cook Islands, will separate the 20 players into four teams of five – and that they will be divided by race. There will be an African-American team, a Hispanic team, an Asian team, and a white team.
Predictably, this has caused a lot of discussion – and on this alone, no one can doubt Mark Burnett’s genius. What other show would get people chatting about it like this as it heads into its
ninththirteenth season? None. [And the fact that I thought it was only the ninth season, when it turns out to be the 13th? Both further proof of Burnett's genius, and the fact that I'm a moron.]
And charmingly, it’s already gotten some racists to show their true colors.
During the program, Limbaugh suggested that "people at CBS" are "scratch[ing] their heads" and asking whether "the swimming portion" of the new Survivor competition is "going to be fair." When pressed by an African-American caller to identify "[w]hich team ... would be the worst swimmers and why," Limbaugh stated that "the white tribe would be the best swimmers" based on the performance of white athletes at "the Olympics." After apparently disconnecting or cutting the volume level of the caller, Limbaugh said: "[Y]ou're saying I'm being racist because I'm saying blacks can't swim." He further protested: "I mentioned the swimming comment only because it's not going to be fair if there is a lot of water competition in this. It just isn't. It is not a racial or racist comment at all."
Charming. But why end there? Let’s stereotype each and every team!
Regarding the new Survivor series, Limbaugh also stated that there "are many characteristics ... that you would think would give [the African-American tribe] the lead, and the heads up in terms of skill and athleticism and so forth." He also stated that "our early money" is on "the Hispanic tribe" -- which he said could include "a Cuban," "a Nicaraguan," or "a Mexican or two" -- provided they don't "start fighting for supremacy amongst themselves." Limbaugh added that Hispanics have "probably shown the most survival tactics," that they "have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders" and that they can "do it without water for a long time, they don't get apprehended, and they will do things other people won't do."
Somewhere, I think Donovan McNabb is smiling.
Last weekend, the 49ers made their ninth trade under head coach Mike Nolan, sending Kevan Barlow to the Jets for a conditional fourth-round draft pick. After a very promising start to his career, Barlow has been a disappointment. Most notably, there are whispers about his character – that he’s the kind of player who expects success but doesn’t like working for it. Personally, I saw a lot of early Ricky Watters in him – dancing laterally instead of putting his head down and pushing defenders back for that extra yard. Watters, despite being a nincompoop, eventually figured it out – but the jury is still out on Barlow.
And after learning of his trade, Barlow’s outburst makes me wonder how he’ll do in the New York media:
”Nolan just doesn't know what he's doing. He's a first-time head coach with too much power," Barlow said via cell phone from New York. "He has too much power as a first-time head coach. He walks around with a chip on his shoulder, like he's a dictator, like he's Hitler. People are scared of him. If it ain't Nolan's way, it's the highway.”... Barlow said his teammates "can't believe" how the trade occurred so abruptly before a game and in the wake of last week's talk with Nolan.
"It was dirty. He had no respect for me or the organization," Barlow said in the initial phone call. "He doesn't know about the 49ers way, and that's too bad because even his dad (Dick) was coach of the 49ers. Bill Walsh set the standard there, and he ain't living up to it."
Now, I think I was supposed to read that and be worried about the 49ers, but – aside from the Hitler comment (which Barlow quickly apologized for), of course – this reads to me like the kind of coach I want on my team. And players who don’t like that are the kind of players I’d prefer to go elsewhere. This is why Pete Carroll didn’t do well in New England but Bill Belichek did. Why Dave Campo was an outright failure in Dallas but Bill Parcells is turning things around. It’s why Norv Turner couldn’t ever be a head coach – they are all too nice, too focused on wanting people and players to like them. That’s an admirable trait, but it’s not what you need from a head coach.
And here is another thing, Kevan – what gives you the right to talk about Bill Walsh and the 49ers way? You weren’t here for any of that. And Walsh might have looked like a college professor, but he was tough as nails on people. Who let Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and a host of other legends go before their time, simply because he thought he could make the team better without them? Walsh.
A memo to Kevan Barlow – put your head down on the field and off of it.
It should have been dull to watch Tiger Woods thoroughly dominate yesterday en route to his 12th major, this the PGA Championship at the Funky Cold Medinah. It should have been boring to see him move from being tied with Luke Donald before teeing off to a five-stroke lead, as contenders like Donald, Mike Weir, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott crumbled.
But it wasn’t.
Watching someone like Tiger is astonishing. At least four times I watched him hit a shot I couldn’t believe was good – an 8-iron from the deep rough, launched 180 yards onto the green; a 45-foot putt that looked sadly offline, rattling down into the cup, and so on. I can’t imagine what competitive golf is like on any level, but there was a pre-tournament interview with most of the competition, all of whom presupposed that Woods would shoot 3 or 4-under, so they needed to be that much better to compete. That’s not revolutionary, and most of them would likely state that this is how they approach any tournament on Sunday when they aren’t leading, but the subsequent collapse of anyone close to Woods was striking. Conditions were just fine out there – people knocked iron shots close, there was no wind or weather to speak of…and yet, it wasn’t ever close.
Some people like rooting against Woods – when this started, I can’t help but think some of this was latent racism, but now I think it’s simply that people root against the favorite, much like I hate it when the Yankees win. But with Tiger, it’s something different. My children will ask me about Tiger Woods, in the way they’ll ask me about Michael Jordan and the way I asked my father about Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron. I love to watch history being made, and for my money, there’s no better outcome in a major than Tiger winning – because every time he does it, it is fascinating and compelling to watch.
About five years ago, I read Jonathan Tropper’s Plan B which was about a group of friends turning thirty and going through some large life changes. I liked it but didn’t love it – it felt a bit forced, too cute and way too derivative of The Big Chill of all things. But in looking back at the review I wrote for Epinions, it turns out I liked it more than I remembered. Perhaps this is why subconsciously, I grabbed two of Tropper’s books off of bookins.com recently.
The first one that I read was The Book of Joe, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t flat out great. Joe Goffman is an author who wrote a surprisingly successful first novel, entitled Bush Falls, which uncoincidentally is the name of his hometown. The book is a not so very veiled memoir of his growing up, and while he hasn’t been back home since leaving for college eighteen years ago, the locals there see him as Enemy #1. The book (and movie, apparently starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kirsten Dunst) brought a lot of unwanted attention to the town, and most felt mocked by outsiders. Additionally, some folks who Goffman painted very negatively still, shall we say, hold major grudges.
So when Goffman is forced to come home to attend to his father, who has fallen into a stroke-induced coma, he drives home wondering if he’ll be able to handle it. What he doesn’t expect – selfishly, it turns out – is the reaction from everyone there. Also waiting back there is his high school girlfriend (presumably, in the fake movie, Dunst) Carly. Carly is recently divorced and the reader knows instantly, even if Goffman doesn’t, that she’s his only true love.
So there is plenty of predictability, to be sure. But there’s a lot I didn’t expect, from the hilarious run-ins with locals to an astonishingly tender moment towards the end with his best friend in the high school gym. The Book of Joe feels as if it’s autobiographical, but only because it feels real and vivid. While it’s not perfect, it was an extremely worthwhile read and highly recommended. Interestingly enough, it was only after I had read it that I noticed a blurb on the back stating that fans of Nick Hornby and Tom Perotta would really like this book. Yep, there you go.
I just read this amusing list of the Top Ten Creepiest Icons in Advertising and I agree with most of them. But as I read it, I kept assuming that the Snuggle Bear was the top spot. And then...it wasn't even on the list. It's not just me, right? That dude freaked my shit right out.
Tony Bourdain is one of the few people who I truly envy - not only is he apparently a world-class chef, but he's a great writer. And his job right now is to travel around the world, finding new places and trying new cuisines. Yeah, I think I could handle that.
Of course, it does happen that sometimes life, and the world, intervenes on this little gig. Like, for instance, the fact that his most recent show was being filmed in Beirut when the most recent nightmare of a war began between Hezbollah and Israel. He's written about it in Salon, quite eloquently as usual, but the following quote stood out for me not just because it's negative towards George Bush (and therefore brilliant) but because it's another reminder to me of how important the little things are:
What is clear -- as far as we're concerned -- from all sources is that there is no official, announced plan. No real advice, or information, or public exit strategy or timetable. The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon -- plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can't tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We're looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.
Bourdain got home safe, which is more than a lot of folks can say, but his writing about the destruction of a city that had just started to be proud of itself again is heartbreaking. Well worth a read.
I haven’t posted much here in awhile, so this will be more of a dump of various things I’ve read, thought or otherwise felt like posting about.
This quote from Bush about the civil war in Iraq…I mean, I know he’s not a outright idiot, but it’s hard to not wonder how much he really knows – or cares – about what’s going on in Iraq.
You know, I hear people say, Well, civil war this, civil war that. The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box.. There’s so much wrong about this it’s almost not worth dissecting. (Like, for instance, the fact that our own country was holding elections back when we had our own civil war. You remember, the one folks in Bush Country refer to as “The War of Northern Aggression”?) What it gets down to is this – Bush isn’t stupid, he just doesn’t care. Being President isn’t about changing the country or the world, it’s a personal vindication to him that he’s smart enough to do it, and a slap to his father and mother who probably always assumed Jeb was the only one who could really do it. If he understands that he’s been used by Cheney, Rumsfeld and others, he doesn’t care, because he’s the President. "The Decider." I’m sure there have been other Presidents who valued more the "winning" than the actual job, but this one is particularly incompetent and stubborn, and that’s a pretty lethal combination.
Guilty Pleasure Update: Big Brother All-Stars has gotten interesting, as James has decided to try and get Janelle out. It certainly makes for good TV but it is also so interesting to me how Big Brother has one consistent theme through every season – no matter who is in control, who is poised to dominate the house for weeks on end, someone screws it up by getting overly pissed off at something, or trying to make a power move early, etc. It makes the show better, but it’s odd that it happens so frequently. At this point, I’m openly rooting for Will to win. He’s the only person in the house, with the possible exception of Mike Boogie, who understands how silly the game is and how little one’s word means in this context. Others like James and Marcellas are so sanctimonious it’s awful, and people like Danielle are simply way too impressed with themselves.
For instance, Danielle’s celebration after winning the challenge – only because Erika, who could have stayed up there for hours, gave it to her – was just preposterous. And while we are at it, Danielle...please do something about that hair. Good lord, she looks like Buckwheat. The whole challenge was pretty silly, despite giving the viewers the immortal phrase, "Big Boy like spider sperm!"
So a study came out today saying that children that have iPods with raunchy, suggestive songs on them are more likely to have sex sooner than those children who do not. And maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell, but my first reaction was, “Which comes first? Isn’t it possible that children who listen to that music are more sexually curious than those that don’t, and the same impulse drives them to both things?” Well, apparently all of us University of Chicago guys think similarly (note: that’s a joke, though I did go there), as this entry in the Freakonomics blog states. Man, I’m smart.
Just for fun – Maria Sharapova.
The more I think about the upcoming NFL season, the more I simply can’t wait. I do like baseball – and at times in my life I’ve flat out loved it. But that’s just not the case these days. I like it, and fantasy baseball makes it infinitely better. Football? While I’ve waned in my fanaticism over the years (I recently had to tell Abby that she was getting a much more sedate football fan than if we’d dated ten years ago), I still just flat out love the sport. And fantasy football? Knickerbocker, please. I cannot wait.
All that being said, I’m really worried that I’m going to talk myself into drafting Kevin Jones again.
RIF! Reading, It's Fundamental.
Recent Books I've Read
Stuff You Will Find Here
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